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Creating Resilient Holiday Traditions

Creating Resilient Holiday Traditions

Although there are many holidays throughout the year, the concentration of days that are celebrated in November and December can make this a challenging season for those living with a mental health concern.

What is meant to be the happiest time of the year, for some is filled with unrealistic expectations of happiness, family dysfunction, financial limitations, and excessive temptations that may trigger feelings of depression, anxiety or shame, self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Keep reading to learn a few ways you can build new, resilient holiday traditions that feel good and bring joy to the season.

A New Twist on Holiday Traditions

Holiday traditions can be quite different and complex depending on various factors such as religion, ethnicity, culture, lifestyle, changes in schedule, and family dynamic. Nothing is perfect, including the holidays and no two families are the same. If you try to meet the unrealistic expectations of others, or yourself, you will always fall short.

They are not one-size-fits-all, and holiday traditions can be challenging for you or a family member. Have you thought about creating a new twist on your festivities? Below are a few suggestions:

  • Introduce your cultural traditions or foods to others, you may be pleasantly surprised that others are open to learning new ways to celebrate the holidays.
  • Be realistic about what you can actually do before you make promises. If hosting a holiday meal is a financial burden for you, ask others to help. Parents, if your children ask for presents that you cannot provide, manage their expectations to avoid disappointment.
  • Reinforce the meaning of giving and make presents. There are so many clever DIY gift ideas online and art therapy plays a big role in the counseling we provide to children and teens at WYS.
  • Don’t go it alone, if you and your family are alone, find a friend with an “open house” policy over the holidays. Look for a community event or volunteer at a local church, synagogue, food bank, or community center.
  • Explore ways to show kindness and simply find nice things to do for people. This may be just the thing that makes you feel better about yourself and will bring joy to others too

Emotional Support Over the Holidays

Holiday anxiety can lead to a mental health crisis. Family members may not understand the intricacies and increased challenges of mental health, struggling with an addictive personality, or family dysfunction, everything is escalated.

Have a Support System

Be proactive, before holiday anxiety sets in, reach out and ask for help before the signs start to show up. Do not feel ashamed about asking for help. If you do not have support system try finding activities that allow you to give your time. Volunteering at a food bank or agency that feeds the homeless can feed the soul and ease your feelings of anxiety.

Plan Holiday Events in Advance

Planning ahead and scheduling in advance relieves stress. Look at “big picture” of the holiday season, prioritize school, work, and activity schedules and be mindful of the events that might cause anxiety for you or anyone in your family. It may be best to decline certain invitations or events. It is OK to say no thank you.

Keep Finances in Check

When it comes to gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts. It is not necessary to over-give expensive gifts that you cannot afford to buy. Keep an open mind when gift giving. Create a holiday budget that includes all additional expenses over the holidays making sure that all bills during and after the holiday season are covered before shopping.

Eating, Sleeping, and Self-Care

As stress and anxiety levels rise over the holidays, it is crucial to maintain good sleeping and eating habits. Take time for self-care, get a little exercise, spend time outdoors in the sunshine, take a quiet moment in the hustle and bustle. Teach your children to do the same. The gift of self-care habits are some of the best you can pass along.

Resilient Holiday Traditions

There are so many pitfalls and landmines over the holidays, some we have no control over, yet some we can change with awareness, support, creativity, and strength. For each holiday anxiety that can be reframed into a joyous event, we build resiliency and the more resilience we have the more equipped we are to face the challenges life will continue to put in our paths.

Be a Friend, or Reach Out for a Little Help from Your Friends…

Sometimes the best way to feel better about yourself and your life is to help someone else. The OptionB website along with Time Magazine are hosting a holiday campaign (#OptionBThere) to make it easy to help others. They are sharing the stories of “six celebrities and public figures who share how they got through their most difficult holidays with a little help from their friends,” including:

  • Robin Roberts, on coping with grief during the holidays.
  • Kesha, on her mantra for confronting mental illness in the season of giving.
  • Katie Couric, on how grief teaches you to have empathy for those celebrating beside you.
  • Patton Oswalt, on conquering holiday loneliness.
  • Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, on how tragedy can strengthen resolutions.
  • OptionB.Org’s collection of personal stories and advice.


We are inspired by Time and OptionB’s campaign and we want to support you too. Visit us on social media and use the hashtag #WYSHolidayTraditions to share your holiday stories, tell us how you take a different approach to celebrating, let us how we can be a friend to YOU, we are listening and will be sharing our stories and resources too.

Wishing you a holiday full of positive twists from holiday anxiety to holiday resiliency.

Lorry Leigh Belhumeur, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Western Youth Services

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